The Americas Blog

El Blog de las Americas

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

Spanish description lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc in arcu neque. Nulla at est euismod, tempor ligula vitae, luctus justo. Ut auctor mi at orci porta pellentesque. Nunc imperdiet sapien sed orci semper, finibus auctor tellus placerat. Nulla scelerisque feugiat turpis quis venenatis. Curabitur mollis diam eu urna efficitur lobortis.

While most of the news from Venezuela has been focused on protests, something that is probably more important for the future of the country has taken place. The black market value of the dollar has plummeted by one-third in the past three weeks, on news that the government is introducing a new, market-based exchange rate. According to the plan, known as SICAD 2 (Sistema Cambiario Alternativo de Divisas), Venezuelans will be able to purchase dollars legally from various vendors including private brokers and banks.

In November of last year I wrote a short piece for Folha de Sao Paulo arguing that the black market dollar price was a bubble, comparable to the real estate bubble in the U.S. in 2006 (or stock market in 1999), and that the government could burst it at any time. Some people were buying dollars because they needed them for various purposes; but also some were making what they thought was a one-way bet. They thought that the dollar was a good store of value because it would continue to rise indefinitely against the domestic currency. Much of the media promoted the idea that Venezuela was headed for hyperinflation (some even erroneously call it that), and so the domestic currency (bolivar fuerte) would continue to lose value until it collapsed.

At the time I wrote about the bubble the dollar was at about 60 bolivares fuertes, but it was already well into bubble territory; it continued to rise to 88 and has now fallen to 58.3. It’s likely to fall further as the SICAD 2 system supplies dollars that were previously being sold on the black market. And if the black market dollar falls, it will bring down inflation, since this has been the main cause (see graph below) of the sharp increase in inflation since October of 2012. There should also be some relief of shortages, since it will be easier for importers to get dollars. Since PDVSA (the state oil company) can sell dollars on this market as well, this should also reduce the government budget deficit.

Of course there are other economic problems, including the pilfering of billions of dollars in foreign exchange at the official rate through the setting up of fake companies, and smuggling subsidized food and gasoline across the Colombian border. But the exchange rate system has been the central economic imbalance, and if SICAD 2 functions as planned it could go a long way towards resolving Venezuela’s current economic problems.

vz erandbop1

While most of the news from Venezuela has been focused on protests, something that is probably more important for the future of the country has taken place. The black market value of the dollar has plummeted by one-third in the past three weeks, on news that the government is introducing a new, market-based exchange rate. According to the plan, known as SICAD 2 (Sistema Cambiario Alternativo de Divisas), Venezuelans will be able to purchase dollars legally from various vendors including private brokers and banks.

In November of last year I wrote a short piece for Folha de Sao Paulo arguing that the black market dollar price was a bubble, comparable to the real estate bubble in the U.S. in 2006 (or stock market in 1999), and that the government could burst it at any time. Some people were buying dollars because they needed them for various purposes; but also some were making what they thought was a one-way bet. They thought that the dollar was a good store of value because it would continue to rise indefinitely against the domestic currency. Much of the media promoted the idea that Venezuela was headed for hyperinflation (some even erroneously call it that), and so the domestic currency (bolivar fuerte) would continue to lose value until it collapsed.

At the time I wrote about the bubble the dollar was at about 60 bolivares fuertes, but it was already well into bubble territory; it continued to rise to 88 and has now fallen to 58.3. It’s likely to fall further as the SICAD 2 system supplies dollars that were previously being sold on the black market. And if the black market dollar falls, it will bring down inflation, since this has been the main cause (see graph below) of the sharp increase in inflation since October of 2012. There should also be some relief of shortages, since it will be easier for importers to get dollars. Since PDVSA (the state oil company) can sell dollars on this market as well, this should also reduce the government budget deficit.

Of course there are other economic problems, including the pilfering of billions of dollars in foreign exchange at the official rate through the setting up of fake companies, and smuggling subsidized food and gasoline across the Colombian border. But the exchange rate system has been the central economic imbalance, and if SICAD 2 functions as planned it could go a long way towards resolving Venezuela’s current economic problems.

vz erandbop1

Earlier this week, in a highly irregular move, Panama offered its seat at the regular meeting of the OAS Permanent Council today to Venezuelan opposition lawmaker María Corina Machado. Machado, along with Leopoldo López, are the leaders of the “La Salida” — “The Exit” — campaign, which calls for street protests to oust the current government.

At the beginning of the meeting, the OAS representative from Nicaragua called for a vote on whether the meeting should be public or private. After much debate, 22 countries voted to make the meeting private, while 11 countries voted in favor of it being public. It should be noted that this is far from the first time the OAS Permanent Council has held a meeting that was closed to the media. Many of the meetings that occurred after the Honduras coup, for example, were also closed to the media.

Many within the Venezuela opposition and the media were quick to cast the vote as a move to censor Machado and prevent her message from being heard. Others have presented the vote as a barometer of support for the Venezuelan government and opposition. Brazil, which voted to make the meeting private, has quite a different explanation:

The objective of this meeting is not to turn itself into a circus for an outside audience as some representatives have shown they want to do.

Earlier this week, in a highly irregular move, Panama offered its seat at the regular meeting of the OAS Permanent Council today to Venezuelan opposition lawmaker María Corina Machado. Machado, along with Leopoldo López, are the leaders of the “La Salida” — “The Exit” — campaign, which calls for street protests to oust the current government.

At the beginning of the meeting, the OAS representative from Nicaragua called for a vote on whether the meeting should be public or private. After much debate, 22 countries voted to make the meeting private, while 11 countries voted in favor of it being public. It should be noted that this is far from the first time the OAS Permanent Council has held a meeting that was closed to the media. Many of the meetings that occurred after the Honduras coup, for example, were also closed to the media.

Many within the Venezuela opposition and the media were quick to cast the vote as a move to censor Machado and prevent her message from being heard. Others have presented the vote as a barometer of support for the Venezuelan government and opposition. Brazil, which voted to make the meeting private, has quite a different explanation:

The objective of this meeting is not to turn itself into a circus for an outside audience as some representatives have shown they want to do.

Today’s report from the New York Times trashes the government for “combative tactics” and “cracking down” on protesters, but if you watch the accompanying video, all you see are protesters attacking police, and the police – without venturing forward, defending themselves with water cannon and tear gas.

One can criticize the decision of the government to block the march from going to hostile territory, but given the continuous presence of violent elements among the protestors, and that Venezuela is a country with a very high homicide rate and many armed civilians, it could have been the prudent thing to do. The government also believes, with some justification, that these protests seek to provoke violence in order to de-legitimize the government. Their stated goal is to overthrow the democratically elected government, and given that the vast majority of the country is against the protests, this really is their only chance of getting anywhere. And the government also knows that the media (both national private and international) will generally blame them for any violence.

In the United States, and especially here in Washington DC, you have to get a permit for marches like this, and they are often denied or re-routed; and if you try to defy this the police will generally beat you and throw you in jail. And these are actually peaceful protests here.

As for the violence so far associated with the protests since they started on Feburary 12, the statistics show that more people have died at the hands of protesters than security forces:

Of the 29 people killed (full details here),

— 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by security forces; 1 other was killed by security forces but it’s not clear if he was a protester.

— 5 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by civilians (the opposition always alleges that these civilians are somehow taking orders from the government, but there has not been any evidence linking the government to any killings by armed civilians; and in a country where there are on average more than 65 homicides per day, it is most likely that these armed civilians are acting on their own).

— 11 civilians appear to have died at the hands of protestors: four of them shot, and the rest killed by various barricades or other obstructions (e.g. motorcyclist beheaded by wire allegedly strung by protesters).

— 3 national guard appear to have been killed by protesters

— 1 pro-government activist appears to have been killed by security forces

— 5 have died in circumstances that are too unclear to determine if they were really related to protests, but they are often included in press reports.

At least 21 security officers have been arrested and remain in jail for alleged violence against protesters, including the incidents described above.

[Editor’s Note, 3/16/2014: This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.]

Today’s report from the New York Times trashes the government for “combative tactics” and “cracking down” on protesters, but if you watch the accompanying video, all you see are protesters attacking police, and the police – without venturing forward, defending themselves with water cannon and tear gas.

One can criticize the decision of the government to block the march from going to hostile territory, but given the continuous presence of violent elements among the protestors, and that Venezuela is a country with a very high homicide rate and many armed civilians, it could have been the prudent thing to do. The government also believes, with some justification, that these protests seek to provoke violence in order to de-legitimize the government. Their stated goal is to overthrow the democratically elected government, and given that the vast majority of the country is against the protests, this really is their only chance of getting anywhere. And the government also knows that the media (both national private and international) will generally blame them for any violence.

In the United States, and especially here in Washington DC, you have to get a permit for marches like this, and they are often denied or re-routed; and if you try to defy this the police will generally beat you and throw you in jail. And these are actually peaceful protests here.

As for the violence so far associated with the protests since they started on Feburary 12, the statistics show that more people have died at the hands of protesters than security forces:

Of the 29 people killed (full details here),

— 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by security forces; 1 other was killed by security forces but it’s not clear if he was a protester.

— 5 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by civilians (the opposition always alleges that these civilians are somehow taking orders from the government, but there has not been any evidence linking the government to any killings by armed civilians; and in a country where there are on average more than 65 homicides per day, it is most likely that these armed civilians are acting on their own).

— 11 civilians appear to have died at the hands of protestors: four of them shot, and the rest killed by various barricades or other obstructions (e.g. motorcyclist beheaded by wire allegedly strung by protesters).

— 3 national guard appear to have been killed by protesters

— 1 pro-government activist appears to have been killed by security forces

— 5 have died in circumstances that are too unclear to determine if they were really related to protests, but they are often included in press reports.

At least 21 security officers have been arrested and remain in jail for alleged violence against protesters, including the incidents described above.

[Editor’s Note, 3/16/2014: This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.]

Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil, released a statement in support of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro on the occasion of the one year anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez. In the letter, Lula discusses Chávez’s legacy in the region, saying that he fought for “a more just and sovereign Latin America,” and expresses his confidence in Maduro as a leader who is defending the principles of Venezuelan democracy. Of course, Lula’s message comes at a time when tensions are high in Venezuela as segments of the opposition wrestle for power after having lost two major elections in 2013.

Below is a translation, you can read the original in Spanish here.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Ex President of the Federative Republic of Brazil to His Excellency

President Nicolás Maduro Moros

Sao Paulo, 5 March 2014

To my friend President Nicolás Maduro:

I am writing to you on this sad date for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to offer my vows of respect and sorrow over the death, one year ago, of the unforgettable and beloved friend, Hugo Chávez Frías.

We fought together in the battles for a more just and sovereign Latin America, for the integration of our nations, for the building of an independent and democratic continent. In good times and in bad, in agreement or in divergence, Chávez was a great friend, a brother who shared in my struggle and dreams for the future.

He exited the scene too young, carried by a malaise that he fought like a warrior, but his legacy will be eternal. Under his leadership, Venezuela broke with an economic and social model that concentrated wealth in the hands of a few groups and relegated the majority of the country to misery and poverty.

For 15 years Venezuelans have traveled a path of socially inclusive development, deepening democracy and distribution of income. Along this trajectory Venezuelans have confronted crises and difficulties that they knew how to confront with popular participation, with respect for the Constitution and with the determination to defend popular interests.

Never did Venezuelans depart from path that respected democracy and the sovereignty of one’s vote. Perhaps no other country, in the last decades, has had so many elections and consultations at the ballot box. Even when they had to confront forces ready to violate the constitutional order, they maintained their promise of peace and legality.

These are some of the conquests and lessons we inherit from our friend Chávez. I have no doubt, my friend Maduro, that this body of ideas and experiences constitutes a guide of conduct for your government and for the Venezuelan people in this delicate moment in your history. At this time a dialogue is necessary among all the democrats that want the best for the country. Only in that way will Venezuela realize her dream of a just, fraternal and egalitarian society.

The best way to honor the memory of El Comandante is to continue onward in the direction of peace, of social justice and of democracy, in the direction of continental integration and of autonomy for our countries. In this struggle we are always united.

I leave you with a brotherly hug and send my greetings to the Venezuelan people.

Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil, released a statement in support of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro on the occasion of the one year anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez. In the letter, Lula discusses Chávez’s legacy in the region, saying that he fought for “a more just and sovereign Latin America,” and expresses his confidence in Maduro as a leader who is defending the principles of Venezuelan democracy. Of course, Lula’s message comes at a time when tensions are high in Venezuela as segments of the opposition wrestle for power after having lost two major elections in 2013.

Below is a translation, you can read the original in Spanish here.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Ex President of the Federative Republic of Brazil to His Excellency

President Nicolás Maduro Moros

Sao Paulo, 5 March 2014

To my friend President Nicolás Maduro:

I am writing to you on this sad date for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to offer my vows of respect and sorrow over the death, one year ago, of the unforgettable and beloved friend, Hugo Chávez Frías.

We fought together in the battles for a more just and sovereign Latin America, for the integration of our nations, for the building of an independent and democratic continent. In good times and in bad, in agreement or in divergence, Chávez was a great friend, a brother who shared in my struggle and dreams for the future.

He exited the scene too young, carried by a malaise that he fought like a warrior, but his legacy will be eternal. Under his leadership, Venezuela broke with an economic and social model that concentrated wealth in the hands of a few groups and relegated the majority of the country to misery and poverty.

For 15 years Venezuelans have traveled a path of socially inclusive development, deepening democracy and distribution of income. Along this trajectory Venezuelans have confronted crises and difficulties that they knew how to confront with popular participation, with respect for the Constitution and with the determination to defend popular interests.

Never did Venezuelans depart from path that respected democracy and the sovereignty of one’s vote. Perhaps no other country, in the last decades, has had so many elections and consultations at the ballot box. Even when they had to confront forces ready to violate the constitutional order, they maintained their promise of peace and legality.

These are some of the conquests and lessons we inherit from our friend Chávez. I have no doubt, my friend Maduro, that this body of ideas and experiences constitutes a guide of conduct for your government and for the Venezuelan people in this delicate moment in your history. At this time a dialogue is necessary among all the democrats that want the best for the country. Only in that way will Venezuela realize her dream of a just, fraternal and egalitarian society.

The best way to honor the memory of El Comandante is to continue onward in the direction of peace, of social justice and of democracy, in the direction of continental integration and of autonomy for our countries. In this struggle we are always united.

I leave you with a brotherly hug and send my greetings to the Venezuelan people.

Since February 23, CEPR has been keeping track of those who have died during the last month of protests in Venezuela. Below is the most recent available information on the location, causes and status of investigations into the deaths. This list will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. As of March 24, the list contains 37 individuals; however in some cases press reports indicate that the death was not directly associated with the protests. Never the less, as they have often been reported as such, they are included below.

There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum. In some cases, members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement. Over 10 individuals have reportedly been killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades. Six members of the National Guard have been killed.

–         Bassil Alejandro Da Costa, an opposition demonstrator was shot, reportedly in the head, and killed in Caracas during the opposition protest that took place on February 12.

–         Juan Montoya, a pro-government community activist, was reportedly shot in both the head and chest and died. Montoya’s body was found a short distance from the body of Da Costa. On February 26, the Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, announced that 8 officers from SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency, had been arrested for their role in the killing of Da Costa and Montoya. As of March 11, 6 SEBIN officers remain in jail. President Maduro has also removed the head of SEBIN.

–         On February 12, Roberto Redman, another opposition demonstrator was also shot, reportedly in the head, and killed. The killing took place in a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Witnesses attributed his death to armed civilians. There has been no update on the status of any investigation.

–         On February 18 José Ernesto Méndez, a 17-year-old student who was participating in a demonstration in the Sucre department, was hit by a truck and later died. The Attorney General stated that the driver of the truck has been apprehended and charged with homicide.

–         On the same day Genesis Carmona, a student and beauty queen was shot and killed in the state of Carabobo. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the she was shot from behind, potentially from within the group she was protesting with, though others contest that version of events. The government has pledged a full investigation. There have been no further updates on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 19, Julio Gonzalez, a member of the public ministry in Carabobo reportedly died after crashing his vehicle while attempting to avoid a roadblock put up by protesters.  

–         On February 20, Arturo Alexis Martínez, the brother of a ruling party legislator, was reportedly shot in the chest as he attempted to clear a path for his car amidst the debris left by a barricade following an opposition protest in Lara state. Witnesses allege that the shot that killed him was fired from a nearby building. On March 6, the AG announced that an individual has been charged for their involvement in the death.

–         On February 20, Asdrúbal Rodríguez was reportedly arrested for attempting to steal a motorcycle and then was found dead the next day. The arrest and killing occurred in Chacao. Two members of the Chacao police have been arrested and remain in jail.

–         On the night of February 21, Elvis Rafael Durán De La Rosa was beheaded by a wire strung across the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue in Caracas while driving a moto. The wire had allegedly been put there by protesters who had set up a road block in the same location earlier that evening.

–         On February 21 that a 37-year-old woman named Delia Elena Lobo had died the previous evening in the city of Mérida in similar circumstances to De La Rosa. The woman was heading home on a motorbike and ran into barbed wire stretched across a street. Nobody has been arrested for the deaths of Lobo or De La Rosa. Authorities have accused retired general Angél Omar Vivas Perdomo of having encouraged protesters to put wires across streets and have ordered his detention.

–         On the evening of February 21, Jose Alejandro Márquez died due to injuries to the head suffered in clashes with the National Guard. Seven members of the National Guard are being investigated for the death.

–         On February 22nd, Geraldine Moreno, a 23-year-old protester who had been injured by bird shot during a protest in Carabobo state a few days earlier reportedly died from head injuries. There has been no update on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 23 in San Cristobal Danny Melgarejo, a local student, was stabbed to death. The mayor said that the killing was related to a robbery, and not the student’s participation in protests.

–         On February 24 Antonio José Valbuena Morales was shot and killed, reportedly while trying to remove barricades that had been set up by protesters.

–         On February 24 Wilmer Carballo was killed by a shot to the head in Sucre state. Reports suggest he was shot by individuals on motos. On February 25, the AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On February 24, Jimmy Vargas died after falling from a second story building. Press reports continue to state that he was killed “after being hit by a tear gas canister and falling from a balcony,” despite video evidence to the contrary.

–         On February 25, Eduardo Ramón Anzona Carmona died after crashing his moto into a barricade. The accident occurred in Valencia in the state of Carabobo

–         Also on February 25, in El Límon, Jhoan Gabriel Quintero Carrasco was shot and killed near a supermarket where looting was taking place.

–         Giovanny José Hernández Pantoja, a member of the GNB, was shot and killed in Valencia on February 28. News reports indicate he was removing a barricade when he was shot. At least three individuals have been detained for their alleged involvement.

–         On March 3 in Chacao, Deivis José Useche died after crashing his moto. Press reports indicate that a manhole cover had been removed during earlier protests, which caused the crash.

–         On Tuesday, March 4 Luis Gutiérrez Camargo crashed into a barricade and died in the state of Tachira.

–         On March 6, a National Guardsman, Acner López Lyon, was shot and killed during an altercation in Los Ruices, a neighborhood in Caracas. News reports indicate that the National Guard was removing a barricade that was blocking a main avenue.

–         In the same altercation that took the life of Lyon, a mototaxista, José Gregorio Amaris Castillo, was shot and killed. The AG announced an investigation into the deaths.

–         On March 7, Johan Alfonso Pineda Morales died after he lost control of his moto on an oil slick, allegedly intentionally created by protesters.

–         On the night of March 9, Giselle Rubilar Figueroa, a Chilean citizen, was reportedly shot and killed by protesters in Merida. The AG has announced an investigation.

–         On the night of March 10, a student protester, Daniel Tinoco was shot and killed in San Cristobal. It is unclear who was responsible, though press reports indicate that the killing occurred after a day of clashes between the National Guard which was trying to remove barricades in San Cristobal. The mayor indicated that it was armed civilians that shot Tinoco. The AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On March 12, university student Jesús Enrique Acosta was shot and killed in La Isabelica in the department of Carabobo. Family members told the press that Acosta was outside his house when armed civilians began firing. Reuters reports that “the state governor said the shot came from snipers among the protesters.”

–         On March 12, the Governor of Carabobo, Francisco Ameliach reported that a captain of the National Guard, Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo was shot and killed during an altercation in the municipality of Naguanagua.

–         Also on March 12 in La Isabelica, Guillermo Alfonso Sánchez was shot and killed. The mayor told the press that Sánchez was painting his house when he was shot. The AG has announced an investigation into the three killings of March 12.

–         On March 16 in Maracay, José Guillen Araque, a member of the National Guard, was shot and killed. The circumstances remain unclear. 

–         On March 18 in in the Montalbán neighbourhood in Caracas a city worker, Francisco Alcides Madrid Rosendo was shot multiple times and killed, reportedly while removing barricades.

–         On March 19 in Tachira, National Guardsman Jhon Rafael Castillo Castillo was shot and killed while breaking up a protest, according to press reports.

–         On March 21 public bus-driver Wilfredo Rey, who was not participating in the protests, was shot and killed “during a confrontation between demonstrators and hooded gunmen in the western city of San Cristobal,” reported Reuters.

–         On March 21, Argenis Hernandez was shot in the abdomen; he died in the morning of March 22. Press reports indicate that Hernandez was shot when a motorcyclist was prevented from passing a barricade and fired on those present.

–         On March 22 in Merida, Jesus Labrador was shot and killed “during a shoot-out between armed protesters burning tires and hooded gunmen on motorcycles, according to a resident of the area,” as reported by Reuters.

–         On March 23 a pregnant woman, Adriana Urquiola, was shot and killed in the city of Guaicaipuro. Press reports indicate she got off a bus that was blocked by a barricade and began walking when she was shot. Opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles tweeted that neither Urquiola, nor another woman who was injured, had been involved in the protests. The Attorney General has announced an investigation.

–         On March 24, in Merida, a member of the National Guard, Miguel Antonio Parra was shot and killed during a confrontation with protesters, according to press reports. Further details are not available.

Since February 23, CEPR has been keeping track of those who have died during the last month of protests in Venezuela. Below is the most recent available information on the location, causes and status of investigations into the deaths. This list will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. As of March 24, the list contains 37 individuals; however in some cases press reports indicate that the death was not directly associated with the protests. Never the less, as they have often been reported as such, they are included below.

There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum. In some cases, members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement. Over 10 individuals have reportedly been killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades. Six members of the National Guard have been killed.

–         Bassil Alejandro Da Costa, an opposition demonstrator was shot, reportedly in the head, and killed in Caracas during the opposition protest that took place on February 12.

–         Juan Montoya, a pro-government community activist, was reportedly shot in both the head and chest and died. Montoya’s body was found a short distance from the body of Da Costa. On February 26, the Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, announced that 8 officers from SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency, had been arrested for their role in the killing of Da Costa and Montoya. As of March 11, 6 SEBIN officers remain in jail. President Maduro has also removed the head of SEBIN.

–         On February 12, Roberto Redman, another opposition demonstrator was also shot, reportedly in the head, and killed. The killing took place in a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Witnesses attributed his death to armed civilians. There has been no update on the status of any investigation.

–         On February 18 José Ernesto Méndez, a 17-year-old student who was participating in a demonstration in the Sucre department, was hit by a truck and later died. The Attorney General stated that the driver of the truck has been apprehended and charged with homicide.

–         On the same day Genesis Carmona, a student and beauty queen was shot and killed in the state of Carabobo. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the she was shot from behind, potentially from within the group she was protesting with, though others contest that version of events. The government has pledged a full investigation. There have been no further updates on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 19, Julio Gonzalez, a member of the public ministry in Carabobo reportedly died after crashing his vehicle while attempting to avoid a roadblock put up by protesters.  

–         On February 20, Arturo Alexis Martínez, the brother of a ruling party legislator, was reportedly shot in the chest as he attempted to clear a path for his car amidst the debris left by a barricade following an opposition protest in Lara state. Witnesses allege that the shot that killed him was fired from a nearby building. On March 6, the AG announced that an individual has been charged for their involvement in the death.

–         On February 20, Asdrúbal Rodríguez was reportedly arrested for attempting to steal a motorcycle and then was found dead the next day. The arrest and killing occurred in Chacao. Two members of the Chacao police have been arrested and remain in jail.

–         On the night of February 21, Elvis Rafael Durán De La Rosa was beheaded by a wire strung across the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue in Caracas while driving a moto. The wire had allegedly been put there by protesters who had set up a road block in the same location earlier that evening.

–         On February 21 that a 37-year-old woman named Delia Elena Lobo had died the previous evening in the city of Mérida in similar circumstances to De La Rosa. The woman was heading home on a motorbike and ran into barbed wire stretched across a street. Nobody has been arrested for the deaths of Lobo or De La Rosa. Authorities have accused retired general Angél Omar Vivas Perdomo of having encouraged protesters to put wires across streets and have ordered his detention.

–         On the evening of February 21, Jose Alejandro Márquez died due to injuries to the head suffered in clashes with the National Guard. Seven members of the National Guard are being investigated for the death.

–         On February 22nd, Geraldine Moreno, a 23-year-old protester who had been injured by bird shot during a protest in Carabobo state a few days earlier reportedly died from head injuries. There has been no update on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 23 in San Cristobal Danny Melgarejo, a local student, was stabbed to death. The mayor said that the killing was related to a robbery, and not the student’s participation in protests.

–         On February 24 Antonio José Valbuena Morales was shot and killed, reportedly while trying to remove barricades that had been set up by protesters.

–         On February 24 Wilmer Carballo was killed by a shot to the head in Sucre state. Reports suggest he was shot by individuals on motos. On February 25, the AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On February 24, Jimmy Vargas died after falling from a second story building. Press reports continue to state that he was killed “after being hit by a tear gas canister and falling from a balcony,” despite video evidence to the contrary.

–         On February 25, Eduardo Ramón Anzona Carmona died after crashing his moto into a barricade. The accident occurred in Valencia in the state of Carabobo

–         Also on February 25, in El Límon, Jhoan Gabriel Quintero Carrasco was shot and killed near a supermarket where looting was taking place.

–         Giovanny José Hernández Pantoja, a member of the GNB, was shot and killed in Valencia on February 28. News reports indicate he was removing a barricade when he was shot. At least three individuals have been detained for their alleged involvement.

–         On March 3 in Chacao, Deivis José Useche died after crashing his moto. Press reports indicate that a manhole cover had been removed during earlier protests, which caused the crash.

–         On Tuesday, March 4 Luis Gutiérrez Camargo crashed into a barricade and died in the state of Tachira.

–         On March 6, a National Guardsman, Acner López Lyon, was shot and killed during an altercation in Los Ruices, a neighborhood in Caracas. News reports indicate that the National Guard was removing a barricade that was blocking a main avenue.

–         In the same altercation that took the life of Lyon, a mototaxista, José Gregorio Amaris Castillo, was shot and killed. The AG announced an investigation into the deaths.

–         On March 7, Johan Alfonso Pineda Morales died after he lost control of his moto on an oil slick, allegedly intentionally created by protesters.

–         On the night of March 9, Giselle Rubilar Figueroa, a Chilean citizen, was reportedly shot and killed by protesters in Merida. The AG has announced an investigation.

–         On the night of March 10, a student protester, Daniel Tinoco was shot and killed in San Cristobal. It is unclear who was responsible, though press reports indicate that the killing occurred after a day of clashes between the National Guard which was trying to remove barricades in San Cristobal. The mayor indicated that it was armed civilians that shot Tinoco. The AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On March 12, university student Jesús Enrique Acosta was shot and killed in La Isabelica in the department of Carabobo. Family members told the press that Acosta was outside his house when armed civilians began firing. Reuters reports that “the state governor said the shot came from snipers among the protesters.”

–         On March 12, the Governor of Carabobo, Francisco Ameliach reported that a captain of the National Guard, Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo was shot and killed during an altercation in the municipality of Naguanagua.

–         Also on March 12 in La Isabelica, Guillermo Alfonso Sánchez was shot and killed. The mayor told the press that Sánchez was painting his house when he was shot. The AG has announced an investigation into the three killings of March 12.

–         On March 16 in Maracay, José Guillen Araque, a member of the National Guard, was shot and killed. The circumstances remain unclear. 

–         On March 18 in in the Montalbán neighbourhood in Caracas a city worker, Francisco Alcides Madrid Rosendo was shot multiple times and killed, reportedly while removing barricades.

–         On March 19 in Tachira, National Guardsman Jhon Rafael Castillo Castillo was shot and killed while breaking up a protest, according to press reports.

–         On March 21 public bus-driver Wilfredo Rey, who was not participating in the protests, was shot and killed “during a confrontation between demonstrators and hooded gunmen in the western city of San Cristobal,” reported Reuters.

–         On March 21, Argenis Hernandez was shot in the abdomen; he died in the morning of March 22. Press reports indicate that Hernandez was shot when a motorcyclist was prevented from passing a barricade and fired on those present.

–         On March 22 in Merida, Jesus Labrador was shot and killed “during a shoot-out between armed protesters burning tires and hooded gunmen on motorcycles, according to a resident of the area,” as reported by Reuters.

–         On March 23 a pregnant woman, Adriana Urquiola, was shot and killed in the city of Guaicaipuro. Press reports indicate she got off a bus that was blocked by a barricade and began walking when she was shot. Opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles tweeted that neither Urquiola, nor another woman who was injured, had been involved in the protests. The Attorney General has announced an investigation.

–         On March 24, in Merida, a member of the National Guard, Miguel Antonio Parra was shot and killed during a confrontation with protesters, according to press reports. Further details are not available.

The United States government, as well as many in the media and punditry, has consistently laid blame for the rising death toll on the Venezuelan government. Last week, in prepared remarks for an OAS meeting on Venezuela, the U.S. representative stated:

The United States notes with concern that the situation in Venezuela has continued to deteriorate since the Permanent Council last met on February 19. The death toll was 13 then, it is now at least 19 and we are gravely disturbed by what appears to be a pattern of security personnel using excessive force.

There is no doubt that some members of the Venezuelan security forces have used excessive force – in fact, at least 14 of them have been arrested for these abuses. The Venezuelan government is not denying this fact, something recognized by the Secretary General of the OAS yesterday when he stated:

Much of this is recognized by both the Government and the opposition; nobody denies it, everyone says something must be done about it.

Far from trying to hide the role of some members of the security forces in human rights abuses or the deaths of citizens, the Venezuelan Attorney General (AG) has released statements to the press almost daily detailing exactly how many deaths there have been, how many individuals have been detained, released and remain in jail; how many human rights violations have been documented and are being investigated; and updates on the status of investigations into abuses.

Each death is as unnecessary and devastating as the one prior, but not all are the same and to portray the violence as one sided – from either side – is both incorrect and misleading. While the death toll tragically reached 21 on Thursday, March 6, it’s important to note that as many have been killed either crashing into barricades or by wires strung across streets as have been killed while protesting. In the last week, two members of the National Guard have been shot and killed while attempting to remove barricades blocking streets.

To be sure, more needs to be done to ensure that violations of human rights by both government security forces and protesters are stopped altogether. There have been allegations that some of those detained have been tortured, not provided access to lawyers or been subject to other forms of abuse. These should be properly investigated. However by holding those found responsible for earlier deaths accountable, it appears as though the most serious abuses on the part of security forces have at least begun to decrease. This may also be an indication that such violations are not state-sanctioned. While press reports often have varying accounts of the circumstances surrounding deaths, reports indicate that no protestor has been killed since February 24. Seven others have died since then, but there is no indication of the involvement of security forces in any of those deaths.

Earlier this week, the AG stated that her office “will not tolerate violations of human rights under any circumstance and that any official that turns out to be responsible will be sanctioned as established by the laws of Venezuela.” On March 6, the AG, Luisa Ortega Díaz, met with PROVEA, a Venezuelan human rights group. Following up on that meeting and at the urging of PROVEA, Díaz met with representatives from Foro Penal, another human rights group that has been documenting cases of abuse and torture during the protests.

Following the meeting with the AG, PROVEA stated that:

We believe that the most important things to come from this meeting were an opening up of direct channels of communication with senior officials of the Attorney General’s office to send complaints regarding [human rights] violations and a mutual spirit of dialogue for continuing to explore a closer cooperation to advance human rights protections in Venezuela.

On March 7, after the meeting with Foro Penal, El Universal reported that the AG “promised to review the information provided by the Foro Penal” and designated an official “to establish a direct channel of communication between the institution” and the human rights group. The meeting already seems to have had some impact, as the AG announced that it had requested the proceedings against 11 students detained in Carabobo to be nullified.

The United States government, as well as many in the media and punditry, has consistently laid blame for the rising death toll on the Venezuelan government. Last week, in prepared remarks for an OAS meeting on Venezuela, the U.S. representative stated:

The United States notes with concern that the situation in Venezuela has continued to deteriorate since the Permanent Council last met on February 19. The death toll was 13 then, it is now at least 19 and we are gravely disturbed by what appears to be a pattern of security personnel using excessive force.

There is no doubt that some members of the Venezuelan security forces have used excessive force – in fact, at least 14 of them have been arrested for these abuses. The Venezuelan government is not denying this fact, something recognized by the Secretary General of the OAS yesterday when he stated:

Much of this is recognized by both the Government and the opposition; nobody denies it, everyone says something must be done about it.

Far from trying to hide the role of some members of the security forces in human rights abuses or the deaths of citizens, the Venezuelan Attorney General (AG) has released statements to the press almost daily detailing exactly how many deaths there have been, how many individuals have been detained, released and remain in jail; how many human rights violations have been documented and are being investigated; and updates on the status of investigations into abuses.

Each death is as unnecessary and devastating as the one prior, but not all are the same and to portray the violence as one sided – from either side – is both incorrect and misleading. While the death toll tragically reached 21 on Thursday, March 6, it’s important to note that as many have been killed either crashing into barricades or by wires strung across streets as have been killed while protesting. In the last week, two members of the National Guard have been shot and killed while attempting to remove barricades blocking streets.

To be sure, more needs to be done to ensure that violations of human rights by both government security forces and protesters are stopped altogether. There have been allegations that some of those detained have been tortured, not provided access to lawyers or been subject to other forms of abuse. These should be properly investigated. However by holding those found responsible for earlier deaths accountable, it appears as though the most serious abuses on the part of security forces have at least begun to decrease. This may also be an indication that such violations are not state-sanctioned. While press reports often have varying accounts of the circumstances surrounding deaths, reports indicate that no protestor has been killed since February 24. Seven others have died since then, but there is no indication of the involvement of security forces in any of those deaths.

Earlier this week, the AG stated that her office “will not tolerate violations of human rights under any circumstance and that any official that turns out to be responsible will be sanctioned as established by the laws of Venezuela.” On March 6, the AG, Luisa Ortega Díaz, met with PROVEA, a Venezuelan human rights group. Following up on that meeting and at the urging of PROVEA, Díaz met with representatives from Foro Penal, another human rights group that has been documenting cases of abuse and torture during the protests.

Following the meeting with the AG, PROVEA stated that:

We believe that the most important things to come from this meeting were an opening up of direct channels of communication with senior officials of the Attorney General’s office to send complaints regarding [human rights] violations and a mutual spirit of dialogue for continuing to explore a closer cooperation to advance human rights protections in Venezuela.

On March 7, after the meeting with Foro Penal, El Universal reported that the AG “promised to review the information provided by the Foro Penal” and designated an official “to establish a direct channel of communication between the institution” and the human rights group. The meeting already seems to have had some impact, as the AG announced that it had requested the proceedings against 11 students detained in Carabobo to be nullified.

As a result of the recent events that have taken place in Venezuela, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have both called for discussions. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would like to see the conflicts resolved within the context of UNASUR and has rejected attempts by the OAS to address the situation.

Last week, the OAS held a private meeting to consider the request of Panama to convene a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs with regard to events in Venezuela, leading to the decision by President Maduro to break diplomatic relations with the Panamanian government.

Although the OAS meeting was held behind closed doors with no media allowed, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza made a lengthy public statement, which was posted on Thursday. Among other things, he stated, “For decades already, no single member has been able to dominate the will of the others.”

However, as was pointed out in the most recent Congressional Research Service report [PDF], historically, the OAS has acted consistently with U.S. foreign policy objectives. It’s also worth noting that the United States was the organizations largest donor, contributing nearly $65.7 million [PDF] in fiscal year 2013, which is equivalent to 41 percent of the total 2013 OAS budget. Considering these sizeable donations it would be safe to assume that the US plays a dominant role in defining the organizations foreign policy. 

The Congressional Research Service report states that:

Although OAS actions frequently reflected U.S. policy during the 20th Century, this has changed to a certain extent over the past decade as Latin American and Caribbean governments have adopted more independent foreign policies. While the organization’s goals and day-to-day activities are still generally consistent with U.S. policy toward the region, the United States’ ability to advance its policy initiatives within the OAS has declined.

Last Thursday, as the OAS debated Panama’s request to convene a meeting of foreign ministers, the U.S. released the prepared remarks from its permanent representative to the OAS Carmen Lomellin. In it, she expressed the U.S.’ support for Panama’s request, and called for a fact-finding mission from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to travel to Venezuela. Instead, the OAS issued a declaration of “Solidarity and Support for Democratic Institutions, Dialogue, and Peace” in Venezuela. Twenty-nine states approved the declaration and only Canada, Panama and the United States objected. This serves as another example of the U.S.’ growing political isolation within the hemisphere.

Newly-Found Independence in the Region and the Role of UNASUR

As the region experiences its second independence, other regional organizations have taken the lead in diffusing crises in the region. From CELAC to UNASUR, increasingly the region has chosen to address important issues without the presence of the United States.

Last month, Venezuela’s minister of foreign relations, Elías Jaua, visited several Latin American countries to inform state officials about the recent protests. An emergency foreign ministers meeting will be held in Chile following the inauguration of Michele Bachelet (who served as the first president of UNASUR during her first term as president of Chile.)

Previous UNASUR presidential emergency meetings have been reserved for extreme crises and serious threats to regional security. 

Here is a brief summary of previous emergency presidential council meetings:[i] 

September 15, 2008: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de UNASUR (Santiago de Chile)
In September of 2008, a series of riots, protests and killings were carried out by Bolivian anti-government protesters in an attempt de-stabilize the democratically elected government of Bolivia. The most severe incident occurred on September 11 in which armed opposition groups massacred 11 unarmed government supporters. Four days later, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet declared an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. Following the meeting, 12 UNASUR governments signed the “Declaración de la Moneda.” The document condemned the acts of violence committed by the opposition and expressed full support for the Bolivian government.  

October 1, 2010: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
UNASUR arranged an emergency meeting after a faction of the Ecuadorian police kidnapped president Rafael Correa as a plot to try and overthrow the government. After the meeting, UNASUR issued a public statement denouncing the coup attempt and expressing support for the Ecuadorian government.

June 27, 2012 [PDF]: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Mendoza, Argentina)
UNASUR formed an emergency meeting in response to the ousting of Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo. An official statement called on opposition leaders to respect democratic practices.

April 18, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Lima, Peru)
This meeting was held after the most recent presidential elections in Venezuela in order to display solidarity and recognize the electoral process there.

July 4, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Cochabamba, Bolivia)  
Last July several European countries closed their airspace to the presidential aircraft of Bolivian president Evo Morales, who was accused of harboring NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Immediately following the incident, the Latin American leaders arranged an emergency meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia in which they described the actions as a form of neo-colonial intimidation. 



i] Since 2008, UNASUR has held ten emergency presidential meetings (five of which pertain to regional conflicts.)

As a result of the recent events that have taken place in Venezuela, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have both called for discussions. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would like to see the conflicts resolved within the context of UNASUR and has rejected attempts by the OAS to address the situation.

Last week, the OAS held a private meeting to consider the request of Panama to convene a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs with regard to events in Venezuela, leading to the decision by President Maduro to break diplomatic relations with the Panamanian government.

Although the OAS meeting was held behind closed doors with no media allowed, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza made a lengthy public statement, which was posted on Thursday. Among other things, he stated, “For decades already, no single member has been able to dominate the will of the others.”

However, as was pointed out in the most recent Congressional Research Service report [PDF], historically, the OAS has acted consistently with U.S. foreign policy objectives. It’s also worth noting that the United States was the organizations largest donor, contributing nearly $65.7 million [PDF] in fiscal year 2013, which is equivalent to 41 percent of the total 2013 OAS budget. Considering these sizeable donations it would be safe to assume that the US plays a dominant role in defining the organizations foreign policy. 

The Congressional Research Service report states that:

Although OAS actions frequently reflected U.S. policy during the 20th Century, this has changed to a certain extent over the past decade as Latin American and Caribbean governments have adopted more independent foreign policies. While the organization’s goals and day-to-day activities are still generally consistent with U.S. policy toward the region, the United States’ ability to advance its policy initiatives within the OAS has declined.

Last Thursday, as the OAS debated Panama’s request to convene a meeting of foreign ministers, the U.S. released the prepared remarks from its permanent representative to the OAS Carmen Lomellin. In it, she expressed the U.S.’ support for Panama’s request, and called for a fact-finding mission from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to travel to Venezuela. Instead, the OAS issued a declaration of “Solidarity and Support for Democratic Institutions, Dialogue, and Peace” in Venezuela. Twenty-nine states approved the declaration and only Canada, Panama and the United States objected. This serves as another example of the U.S.’ growing political isolation within the hemisphere.

Newly-Found Independence in the Region and the Role of UNASUR

As the region experiences its second independence, other regional organizations have taken the lead in diffusing crises in the region. From CELAC to UNASUR, increasingly the region has chosen to address important issues without the presence of the United States.

Last month, Venezuela’s minister of foreign relations, Elías Jaua, visited several Latin American countries to inform state officials about the recent protests. An emergency foreign ministers meeting will be held in Chile following the inauguration of Michele Bachelet (who served as the first president of UNASUR during her first term as president of Chile.)

Previous UNASUR presidential emergency meetings have been reserved for extreme crises and serious threats to regional security. 

Here is a brief summary of previous emergency presidential council meetings:[i] 

September 15, 2008: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de UNASUR (Santiago de Chile)
In September of 2008, a series of riots, protests and killings were carried out by Bolivian anti-government protesters in an attempt de-stabilize the democratically elected government of Bolivia. The most severe incident occurred on September 11 in which armed opposition groups massacred 11 unarmed government supporters. Four days later, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet declared an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. Following the meeting, 12 UNASUR governments signed the “Declaración de la Moneda.” The document condemned the acts of violence committed by the opposition and expressed full support for the Bolivian government.  

October 1, 2010: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
UNASUR arranged an emergency meeting after a faction of the Ecuadorian police kidnapped president Rafael Correa as a plot to try and overthrow the government. After the meeting, UNASUR issued a public statement denouncing the coup attempt and expressing support for the Ecuadorian government.

June 27, 2012 [PDF]: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Mendoza, Argentina)
UNASUR formed an emergency meeting in response to the ousting of Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo. An official statement called on opposition leaders to respect democratic practices.

April 18, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Lima, Peru)
This meeting was held after the most recent presidential elections in Venezuela in order to display solidarity and recognize the electoral process there.

July 4, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Cochabamba, Bolivia)  
Last July several European countries closed their airspace to the presidential aircraft of Bolivian president Evo Morales, who was accused of harboring NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Immediately following the incident, the Latin American leaders arranged an emergency meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia in which they described the actions as a form of neo-colonial intimidation. 



i] Since 2008, UNASUR has held ten emergency presidential meetings (five of which pertain to regional conflicts.)

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro made news this week by breaking off relations with Panama following Panama’s proposal for the Organization of American States (OAS) to take up the situation in Venezuela. Panama’s move followed weeks of calls from members of the U.S. Congress, pundits and others to use the OAS against the Maduro government for supposed government repression of “peaceful” protesters.

In remarks yesterday, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza criticized what he described as hypocrisy from both those who support and oppose such a move. Insulza stated:

here we see a swapping of roles: Those who just a few years ago brandished the Inter-American Democratic Charter to demand severe sanctions against the de facto government in Honduras are now saying that even mentioning a crisis that has already led to the deaths of a large number of people constitutes interference; while those who denounced (and still denounce) the steps we took when faced with an obvious coup d’état as an attack on a nation’s sovereignty –I’m referring again to Honduras-, now demand that we help them overthrow a government recently chosen in a democratic election.

It appears that Insulza is playing a role that he has played on numerous prior occasions – most recently in April when he refused to recognize the Venezuelan presidential elections, until South American pressure forced him (as well as the U.S. and the right-wing government of Spain) to accept democratic election results.  This is unfortunate, but the manipulation of the OAS by Washington and a diminishing number of right-wing allies is the main reason that Latin American countries created the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011, to have a region-wide organization without the U.S. and Canada.

While it is important for officials such as Insulza to reaffirm the importance of Venezuela’s democratic processes and remind the OAS membership that Venezuela’s government was recently elected (and had its strong public support reaffirmed less than three months ago in local elections), other remarks equate extreme sectors of the Venezuelan opposition and the Venezuelan government, even though the government has won elections and the opposition has not:

Today, it is undeniable that there is a profound political crisis, characterized above all by a split and confrontation between most political and social actors into irreconcilable bands. When the opposition mobilizes, it does so on a massive scale, and poses strong demands; when the Government’s supporters take to the streets, their numbers and the fervor of their demands are also huge.

But for the last few weeks, it isn’t “massive” opposition protests that are occurring, but rather small protests designed to wreak havoc in a few neighborhoods throughout the country.  In essence, Insulza and the U.S. administration are suggesting that when extremist groups demand the immediate departure of an elected president, and try to achieve their aim by barricading streets and engaging in violent acts, the government has an obligation to dialogue with them.

This is reminiscent of Insulza’s approach to the coup in Honduras in 2009, when he effectively raised up a repressive regime that destroyed democracy with a military coup to the same legitimacy as the elected government. Insulza’s characterization of the OAS role in responding to the Honduran coup is also misleading. In fact, the OAS did little to try to restore democracy to Honduras, and Insulza apparently did not speak out when the U.S. ultimately blocked a measure that would have required the ousted president Manuel Zelaya to be returned to office before new elections were to be held, even though this was a solution supported by most OAS members.

Insulza’s comments on Chile are also troubling:

Both sides are an indispensable part of a country that needs all its people as it forges its future. Seeking to “win” this battle is a sure path to a decades-long national split between the vanquished and the conquerors. History is replete with examples of when division and confrontation destroyed democracy and ushered in long bouts of dictatorship. That is what happened in my country and thousands died.

Those familiar with the history of Chile know that political polarization was not the main problem, but rather that the right wing was by led by fascists who did not respect democratic government and were willing to institute a violent dictatorship that killed, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of people.  (It is also relevant that the U.S. government fueled much of the unrest as well as economic sabotage after then-U.S. president Richard Nixon vowed to “make the economy scream.”)  It is of course good to avoid unnecessary political polarization and pursue dialogue as a general principle.  But Chile’s infamous military coup and dictatorship were not a result of a conflict between two opposing forces representing equally just claims; it was rich against poor, people who did not respect democratic elections versus those who did, people allied with an aggressive foreign power versus those who believed in national sovereignty.

Insulza also refers to OAS support for “democracy and political stability in Haiti”: “during the Haitian crisis, over a decade ago, we gladly accepted U.N. leadership in that country and still maintain our association with it, in support of democracy and political stability in Haiti.”

This also raises very serious questions about Insulza’s idea of democracy. The U.N. mission was deployed to Haiti following the 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’etat against the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who also had faced a violent opposition (for years) with whom the international community repeatedly urged him to “negotiate;” while at the same time we now know that U.S. funders of the opposition were telling them not to reach any agreement, that Aristide would be overthrown.  The U.N. has occupied Haiti almost ever since, while the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas has been arbitrarily excluded from elections and many of its leaders and members hunted down and killed, and others imprisoned on bogus charges.

As we have described in detail, the OAS has played a key role in overturning elections in Haiti twice: in 2000, when the OAS’ rejection – without justification – of the election of seven senators provided the pretext for a political “crisis” and U.S.-led efforts to undermine the Aristide government; and the OAS’ overturning of the first round of the 2010 presidential elections. (Former OAS insider Ricardo Seitenfus has recently provided more details on this sorry episode.)

Considering this background, and the disproportionate influence wielded by the U.S. at the OAS, it should be of little surprise that Venezuela would seek to have UNASUR take up the Venezuelan political situation, rather than the OAS, which it appears UNASUR might, next week.

In a statement before the OAS, U.S. Ambassador Carmen Lomellin described

what appears to be a pattern of security personnel using excessive force.

We are also concerned with increasingly stringent tactics being employed by the government in an effort to restrict the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful protest.

However, violence in recent days has almost exclusively impacted those opposed to the protests or the barricades, which make getting around certain neighborhoods difficult.

If there is a “pattern” of “excessive force” and “increasingly stringent tactics” by the government, it is unclear what these are, considering that the road blockades continue, even after nine people have been killed either trying to get through, or remove, the barricades, and considering that National Guard officers are getting killed. It is hard to imagine such a situation taking place in the United States, with small groups of protesters blockading streets, not for hours, and not even for days, but for weeks, and those attempting to remove the barricades being attacked and sometimes even shot and killed. The Occupy protests just a few years ago were usually violently repressed, and these were mostly in parks and other green spaces – not blocking off streets in major cities. These were actually peaceful demonstrations.  Nor was the police repression of the Occupy protests met with calls for intervention by the OAS, even after Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was almost killed after being shot in the head with a canister by police in Oakland, CA.

The U.S. statement follows a pattern of official statements since Venezuela’s latest wave of protests began that heaps all blame for violence on the government while characterizing the protests only as peaceful (the nine people who have been killed while trying to pass through or remove barricades, or the pro-government demonstrators killed, are testament to a different reality).

While both Lomellin and Insulza (among many others) have stressed the importance of dialogue between the government and the opposition, little attention is paid to the Venezuelan government’s efforts to engage in such dialogue. Maduro invited opposition leaders to a meeting on February 24; opposition leader Henrique Capriles rejected the offer.  Jorge Roig, the head of FEDECAMARAS (the main business federation) and Lorenzo Mendoza, head of major food and beverage company Empresas Polar did attend, however, with Roig saying “We have profound differences with your economic system and your political systems but democracy, thank God, lets us evaluate these differences.”

Insulza’s comments that “it is also essential that the principal party leaders and opposition leaders with the most backing are also parties to the dialogue” could be seen as criticism of Capriles’ refusal so far to speak with Maduro. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot recently noted in Venezuela’s Últimas Noticias, by taking a radical posture and refusing to meet with Maduro despite having shook hands with Maduro just weeks before, Capriles has clearly sided with the more extreme elements of Venezuela’s opposition.

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro made news this week by breaking off relations with Panama following Panama’s proposal for the Organization of American States (OAS) to take up the situation in Venezuela. Panama’s move followed weeks of calls from members of the U.S. Congress, pundits and others to use the OAS against the Maduro government for supposed government repression of “peaceful” protesters.

In remarks yesterday, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza criticized what he described as hypocrisy from both those who support and oppose such a move. Insulza stated:

here we see a swapping of roles: Those who just a few years ago brandished the Inter-American Democratic Charter to demand severe sanctions against the de facto government in Honduras are now saying that even mentioning a crisis that has already led to the deaths of a large number of people constitutes interference; while those who denounced (and still denounce) the steps we took when faced with an obvious coup d’état as an attack on a nation’s sovereignty –I’m referring again to Honduras-, now demand that we help them overthrow a government recently chosen in a democratic election.

It appears that Insulza is playing a role that he has played on numerous prior occasions – most recently in April when he refused to recognize the Venezuelan presidential elections, until South American pressure forced him (as well as the U.S. and the right-wing government of Spain) to accept democratic election results.  This is unfortunate, but the manipulation of the OAS by Washington and a diminishing number of right-wing allies is the main reason that Latin American countries created the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011, to have a region-wide organization without the U.S. and Canada.

While it is important for officials such as Insulza to reaffirm the importance of Venezuela’s democratic processes and remind the OAS membership that Venezuela’s government was recently elected (and had its strong public support reaffirmed less than three months ago in local elections), other remarks equate extreme sectors of the Venezuelan opposition and the Venezuelan government, even though the government has won elections and the opposition has not:

Today, it is undeniable that there is a profound political crisis, characterized above all by a split and confrontation between most political and social actors into irreconcilable bands. When the opposition mobilizes, it does so on a massive scale, and poses strong demands; when the Government’s supporters take to the streets, their numbers and the fervor of their demands are also huge.

But for the last few weeks, it isn’t “massive” opposition protests that are occurring, but rather small protests designed to wreak havoc in a few neighborhoods throughout the country.  In essence, Insulza and the U.S. administration are suggesting that when extremist groups demand the immediate departure of an elected president, and try to achieve their aim by barricading streets and engaging in violent acts, the government has an obligation to dialogue with them.

This is reminiscent of Insulza’s approach to the coup in Honduras in 2009, when he effectively raised up a repressive regime that destroyed democracy with a military coup to the same legitimacy as the elected government. Insulza’s characterization of the OAS role in responding to the Honduran coup is also misleading. In fact, the OAS did little to try to restore democracy to Honduras, and Insulza apparently did not speak out when the U.S. ultimately blocked a measure that would have required the ousted president Manuel Zelaya to be returned to office before new elections were to be held, even though this was a solution supported by most OAS members.

Insulza’s comments on Chile are also troubling:

Both sides are an indispensable part of a country that needs all its people as it forges its future. Seeking to “win” this battle is a sure path to a decades-long national split between the vanquished and the conquerors. History is replete with examples of when division and confrontation destroyed democracy and ushered in long bouts of dictatorship. That is what happened in my country and thousands died.

Those familiar with the history of Chile know that political polarization was not the main problem, but rather that the right wing was by led by fascists who did not respect democratic government and were willing to institute a violent dictatorship that killed, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of people.  (It is also relevant that the U.S. government fueled much of the unrest as well as economic sabotage after then-U.S. president Richard Nixon vowed to “make the economy scream.”)  It is of course good to avoid unnecessary political polarization and pursue dialogue as a general principle.  But Chile’s infamous military coup and dictatorship were not a result of a conflict between two opposing forces representing equally just claims; it was rich against poor, people who did not respect democratic elections versus those who did, people allied with an aggressive foreign power versus those who believed in national sovereignty.

Insulza also refers to OAS support for “democracy and political stability in Haiti”: “during the Haitian crisis, over a decade ago, we gladly accepted U.N. leadership in that country and still maintain our association with it, in support of democracy and political stability in Haiti.”

This also raises very serious questions about Insulza’s idea of democracy. The U.N. mission was deployed to Haiti following the 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’etat against the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who also had faced a violent opposition (for years) with whom the international community repeatedly urged him to “negotiate;” while at the same time we now know that U.S. funders of the opposition were telling them not to reach any agreement, that Aristide would be overthrown.  The U.N. has occupied Haiti almost ever since, while the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas has been arbitrarily excluded from elections and many of its leaders and members hunted down and killed, and others imprisoned on bogus charges.

As we have described in detail, the OAS has played a key role in overturning elections in Haiti twice: in 2000, when the OAS’ rejection – without justification – of the election of seven senators provided the pretext for a political “crisis” and U.S.-led efforts to undermine the Aristide government; and the OAS’ overturning of the first round of the 2010 presidential elections. (Former OAS insider Ricardo Seitenfus has recently provided more details on this sorry episode.)

Considering this background, and the disproportionate influence wielded by the U.S. at the OAS, it should be of little surprise that Venezuela would seek to have UNASUR take up the Venezuelan political situation, rather than the OAS, which it appears UNASUR might, next week.

In a statement before the OAS, U.S. Ambassador Carmen Lomellin described

what appears to be a pattern of security personnel using excessive force.

We are also concerned with increasingly stringent tactics being employed by the government in an effort to restrict the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful protest.

However, violence in recent days has almost exclusively impacted those opposed to the protests or the barricades, which make getting around certain neighborhoods difficult.

If there is a “pattern” of “excessive force” and “increasingly stringent tactics” by the government, it is unclear what these are, considering that the road blockades continue, even after nine people have been killed either trying to get through, or remove, the barricades, and considering that National Guard officers are getting killed. It is hard to imagine such a situation taking place in the United States, with small groups of protesters blockading streets, not for hours, and not even for days, but for weeks, and those attempting to remove the barricades being attacked and sometimes even shot and killed. The Occupy protests just a few years ago were usually violently repressed, and these were mostly in parks and other green spaces – not blocking off streets in major cities. These were actually peaceful demonstrations.  Nor was the police repression of the Occupy protests met with calls for intervention by the OAS, even after Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was almost killed after being shot in the head with a canister by police in Oakland, CA.

The U.S. statement follows a pattern of official statements since Venezuela’s latest wave of protests began that heaps all blame for violence on the government while characterizing the protests only as peaceful (the nine people who have been killed while trying to pass through or remove barricades, or the pro-government demonstrators killed, are testament to a different reality).

While both Lomellin and Insulza (among many others) have stressed the importance of dialogue between the government and the opposition, little attention is paid to the Venezuelan government’s efforts to engage in such dialogue. Maduro invited opposition leaders to a meeting on February 24; opposition leader Henrique Capriles rejected the offer.  Jorge Roig, the head of FEDECAMARAS (the main business federation) and Lorenzo Mendoza, head of major food and beverage company Empresas Polar did attend, however, with Roig saying “We have profound differences with your economic system and your political systems but democracy, thank God, lets us evaluate these differences.”

Insulza’s comments that “it is also essential that the principal party leaders and opposition leaders with the most backing are also parties to the dialogue” could be seen as criticism of Capriles’ refusal so far to speak with Maduro. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot recently noted in Venezuela’s Últimas Noticias, by taking a radical posture and refusing to meet with Maduro despite having shook hands with Maduro just weeks before, Capriles has clearly sided with the more extreme elements of Venezuela’s opposition.

En español

On Saturday, March 1 the New York Times ran a graphic accompanying its article on Venezuela that showed an “implied inflation rate” of more than 300 percent.

This is a statistic that was manufactured by the Cato Institute. It is not a meaningful measure of inflation, and there are few economists who would accept it as such. I will explain below why the Times has violated both the standards of basic economics and also standard journalistic procedures with this decision, which as of today (March 6), the editors have refused to correct, despite being presented with explanations of why it is wrong. But first, a note on the significance of this kind of misreporting.

If this bogus statistic is picked up by Venezuela’s opposition media and becomes another “fact,” it could have a significant influence on the actual dynamic of inflation in Venezuela. To the extent that this statistic is believed, many Venezuelans would not want to hold domestic currency and would move their money into dollars or other assets, thus fueling both black market currency depreciation and inflation.

(There is a similar problem in Argentina, where the media, which is mostly against the government, often exaggerates the problems of the economy in ways that would make more people flee from the domestic currency there.)

Regarding Venezuela, this is the second time in the past two weeks that the Times has misreported a key fact that has very important political consequences. On February 20, the Times led its article with the sentence “The only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government …” As it turns out, all of the private TV stations “regularly broadcast voices critical of the government.” The Times ran a correction. The importance of this kind of mistake can be seen in the statements by actors who have no familiarity with Venezuela, like Kevin Spacey and Jared Leto, who made statements that reached tens of millions of people, about “freedom of expression” in Venezuela that are completely divorced from reality. This is very ugly because it lends support to the rightist movement there that is currently seeking to overthrow the democratically-elected government, and most importantly to their fundamental strategy, which is to portray the government as a dictatorship that is illegitimate. This in turn helps to justify violent demonstrations in Venezuela.

Now, for the more boring details of the Times’ error on inflation. Inflation is currently running at 56 percent, which is high but not hyperinflation. The Times’ error, taken from Cato, is actually quite simple. They are using a formula to calculate what inflation would be if people had to pay for all of their goods and services in dollars purchased on the black market. But as anyone in Venezuela can tell you, this is not the case. For virtually all of the purchases that make up the basket of goods measured by the Consumer Price Index, Venezuelans use domestic currency. The Cato measure (methodology here) is measuring the change in the black market dollar exchange rate, which very simply, is not the same thing as inflation, even if the two variables may be related. The uselessness of this measure can be seen on the graph itself, where the “implied inflation rate” turns negative in 2008-09, at a time when actual inflation is running at 25-31 percent.

The Times’ error violates standard economic reporting because it is standard to use official statistics, which come from government or international agencies such as the IMF (which of course has not challenged or even criticized Venezuela’s consumer price index). The only exceptions are when the official statistics are not considered by economists to be true, and there are reliable private estimates. An interested party should not be able to simply make up a new statistic for inflation, unemployment, poverty, etc. and expect that a reputable media outlet will report it along with the official statistic that is used by economists and international agencies.

In fairness to the reporter, I am told that he was not responsible for the graph, and the article was otherwise fair and balanced, and an interesting piece.

En español

On Saturday, March 1 the New York Times ran a graphic accompanying its article on Venezuela that showed an “implied inflation rate” of more than 300 percent.

This is a statistic that was manufactured by the Cato Institute. It is not a meaningful measure of inflation, and there are few economists who would accept it as such. I will explain below why the Times has violated both the standards of basic economics and also standard journalistic procedures with this decision, which as of today (March 6), the editors have refused to correct, despite being presented with explanations of why it is wrong. But first, a note on the significance of this kind of misreporting.

If this bogus statistic is picked up by Venezuela’s opposition media and becomes another “fact,” it could have a significant influence on the actual dynamic of inflation in Venezuela. To the extent that this statistic is believed, many Venezuelans would not want to hold domestic currency and would move their money into dollars or other assets, thus fueling both black market currency depreciation and inflation.

(There is a similar problem in Argentina, where the media, which is mostly against the government, often exaggerates the problems of the economy in ways that would make more people flee from the domestic currency there.)

Regarding Venezuela, this is the second time in the past two weeks that the Times has misreported a key fact that has very important political consequences. On February 20, the Times led its article with the sentence “The only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government …” As it turns out, all of the private TV stations “regularly broadcast voices critical of the government.” The Times ran a correction. The importance of this kind of mistake can be seen in the statements by actors who have no familiarity with Venezuela, like Kevin Spacey and Jared Leto, who made statements that reached tens of millions of people, about “freedom of expression” in Venezuela that are completely divorced from reality. This is very ugly because it lends support to the rightist movement there that is currently seeking to overthrow the democratically-elected government, and most importantly to their fundamental strategy, which is to portray the government as a dictatorship that is illegitimate. This in turn helps to justify violent demonstrations in Venezuela.

Now, for the more boring details of the Times’ error on inflation. Inflation is currently running at 56 percent, which is high but not hyperinflation. The Times’ error, taken from Cato, is actually quite simple. They are using a formula to calculate what inflation would be if people had to pay for all of their goods and services in dollars purchased on the black market. But as anyone in Venezuela can tell you, this is not the case. For virtually all of the purchases that make up the basket of goods measured by the Consumer Price Index, Venezuelans use domestic currency. The Cato measure (methodology here) is measuring the change in the black market dollar exchange rate, which very simply, is not the same thing as inflation, even if the two variables may be related. The uselessness of this measure can be seen on the graph itself, where the “implied inflation rate” turns negative in 2008-09, at a time when actual inflation is running at 25-31 percent.

The Times’ error violates standard economic reporting because it is standard to use official statistics, which come from government or international agencies such as the IMF (which of course has not challenged or even criticized Venezuela’s consumer price index). The only exceptions are when the official statistics are not considered by economists to be true, and there are reliable private estimates. An interested party should not be able to simply make up a new statistic for inflation, unemployment, poverty, etc. and expect that a reputable media outlet will report it along with the official statistic that is used by economists and international agencies.

In fairness to the reporter, I am told that he was not responsible for the graph, and the article was otherwise fair and balanced, and an interesting piece.

Ecuadorians went to the voting polls last Sunday to participate in municipal and provincial elections for the second time since Rafael Correa was elected president. Early results indicate that 11,682,314 Ecuadorians voted which is equal to a 16.9 percent voter abstention rate; this is nearly 8 percentage points lower than in the previous municipal and provincial elections. Following the elections, UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a statement congratulating the Ecuadorian people for what they called “transparent and normal” elections.

The preliminary election results reveal that governing AP (Alianza PAIS) party candidates won a larger share of mayoral (30 percent) and prefecture (43 percent) elections than any other party.[i] In addition, AP achieved a 4 percent gain in prefecture electoral victories compared to the previous election. Table 1a shows the prefectures where Alianza PAIS won the highest percentage of voter shares.

 Table 1[ii]

nateecuadortable1

The prefecture election results revealed noteworthy tendencies. The data indicates that Alianza PAIS lost in three prefectures (Azuay[iii], Imbabura and Loja) where they had won the majority vote in the previous election. The losses in both Imbabura and Azuay can be explained due to the fact that in both instances, the AVANZA party (newly formed left-of-center political party) reached out to Alianza PAIS in an attempt to form a broad coalition party but the local AP party officials rejected the offer. In a recent public statement, president Rafael Correa admitted that if AP party members had been more willing to form political alliances then they would have done better in the elections. Correa went on to criticize members of his own party and described their actions as overly “sectarian.” Today, as a gesture of solidarity, President Correa is scheduled to meet and congratulate all of the newly elected mayors of the provincial capitals.

Early election results indicate that the AVANZA party won 37 mayoral electoral races (a higher total net gain than any other political party) compared to Alianza PAIS, which suffered a 2 percent loss margin compared to the previous election. Also, AVANZA won four mayoral elections in provincial capital cities compared to Alianza PAIS which only won three (a decline of 41 percent from the previous election).

One of the most significant losses occurred in Quito, where SUMA (Sociedad Unida Más Acción) candidate Mauricio Rodas won the majority vote with 58 percent of the vote. Quito is considered to be very symbolic in terms of determining political sentiment toward the national government. Quito’s status as the political capital of Ecuador has given voters a reputation of voting strategically and unforgivingly; this year’s elections proved to be no different.

It was reported that certain voters were going to cast “anti-Barrera” (referring to the incumbent mayor of Quito Augosto Barrera) votes which would lend support to the opposition candidate, Mauricio Rodas, not because they approve of Mauricio Rodas but because they are unhappy with Augosto Barrera. Augosto Barrera has received mixed reviews during his tenure as mayor of Quito. In fact, prediction polls conducted by Gallup International indicated Mauricio Rodas as a slight favorite. Prior to the elections, Correa made several public appearances in which he encouraged voters to vote for Augusto Barrera.

How will the results from the local elections impact the overall goals of the Citizens Revolution[iv]?

As mentioned earlier, the AP made a slight improvement in the prefecture elections but experienced setbacks in the mayoral contests, most notably in Quito and Cuenca. Nevertheless, this is not likely to have negative overall impact on the goals of the AP political project. While mayors play an important role Ecuadoran politics, by no means do they have total authority over local political policies. Rather it is a collective process made up of the members of the municipal council who also play a very large role in the political decision-making process. Early election polls indicate that that in both Cuenca and Quito, cities where opposition candidates won the mayoral election race, it is unlikely that the new mayors will be able to diverge from the AP political agenda due to the fact that the majority of the elected municipal council members are members of Alianza PAIS.

Conclusion:

Some government supporters are concerned that Alianza PAIS’ mayoral election loss in Quito is indicative of growing discontent with the Correa administration. In recent months, President Correa has approved of many controversial decisions including:

Beginning oil extraction in the Yasuni national park.

Law 1938 that imposes harsher punishments on medical malpractice. This law provoked considerable anger among members of the Ecuadorian medical community. Many members of Ecuador’s Federación Médica threatened a mass resignation if their demands were not met.

-Lastly, President Correa’s threat that he would resign if legislators from the National Assembly passed a proposal to ease abortion restrictions. Correa’s unwillingness to ratify the strict laws on abortion was particularly upsetting to the three legislators that authored the proposal.

These issues have led to many protests and criticisms of Rafael Correa. However, while the local elections in Quito and in Ecuador reveal many things they do not necessarily translated into a growing dissatisfaction with Rafael Correa’s presidency. In a poll conducted by Gallup last January, Correa received a 63 percent approval rating in his job as president. Despite setbacks in the local political arena the most recent popular opinion polls indicate that President Correa continues to be seen favorably by a majority of Ecuadorians.

 


[i] All electoral victories include Alianza PAIS coalition parties

[ii] Election results reflect figures from Consejo Nacional Electoral, as of Wednesday, March 5 2014.

[iii] The winning party was an AP/ MED coalition party.

[iv] The Citizens Revolution is a broad political project launched by Rafael Correa that aims at eliminating corruption, strengthening the constitution, creating healthy and sustainable forms of economic growth and finally, expanding the health and education services within the country.   

*Asterisks indicate Alianza PAIS coalition parties.

 

Ecuadorians went to the voting polls last Sunday to participate in municipal and provincial elections for the second time since Rafael Correa was elected president. Early results indicate that 11,682,314 Ecuadorians voted which is equal to a 16.9 percent voter abstention rate; this is nearly 8 percentage points lower than in the previous municipal and provincial elections. Following the elections, UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a statement congratulating the Ecuadorian people for what they called “transparent and normal” elections.

The preliminary election results reveal that governing AP (Alianza PAIS) party candidates won a larger share of mayoral (30 percent) and prefecture (43 percent) elections than any other party.[i] In addition, AP achieved a 4 percent gain in prefecture electoral victories compared to the previous election. Table 1a shows the prefectures where Alianza PAIS won the highest percentage of voter shares.


[i] All electoral victories include Alianza PAIS coalition parties

Ecuadorians went to the voting polls last Sunday to participate in municipal and provincial elections for the second time since Rafael Correa was elected president. Early results indicate that 11,682,314 Ecuadorians voted which is equal to a 16.9 percent voter abstention rate; this is nearly 8 percentage points lower than in the previous municipal and provincial elections. Following the elections, UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a statement congratulating the Ecuadorian people for what they called “transparent and normal” elections.

The preliminary election results reveal that governing AP (Alianza PAIS) party candidates won a larger share of mayoral (30 percent) and prefecture (43 percent) elections than any other party.[i] In addition, AP achieved a 4 percent gain in prefecture electoral victories compared to the previous election. Table 1a shows the prefectures where Alianza PAIS won the highest percentage of voter shares.

 Table 1[ii]

nateecuadortable1

The prefecture election results revealed noteworthy tendencies. The data indicates that Alianza PAIS lost in three prefectures (Azuay[iii], Imbabura and Loja) where they had won the majority vote in the previous election. The losses in both Imbabura and Azuay can be explained due to the fact that in both instances, the AVANZA party (newly formed left-of-center political party) reached out to Alianza PAIS in an attempt to form a broad coalition party but the local AP party officials rejected the offer. In a recent public statement, president Rafael Correa admitted that if AP party members had been more willing to form political alliances then they would have done better in the elections. Correa went on to criticize members of his own party and described their actions as overly “sectarian.” Today, as a gesture of solidarity, President Correa is scheduled to meet and congratulate all of the newly elected mayors of the provincial capitals.

Early election results indicate that the AVANZA party won 37 mayoral electoral races (a higher total net gain than any other political party) compared to Alianza PAIS, which suffered a 2 percent loss margin compared to the previous election. Also, AVANZA won four mayoral elections in provincial capital cities compared to Alianza PAIS which only won three (a decline of 41 percent from the previous election).

One of the most significant losses occurred in Quito, where SUMA (Sociedad Unida Más Acción) candidate Mauricio Rodas won the majority vote with 58 percent of the vote. Quito is considered to be very symbolic in terms of determining political sentiment toward the national government. Quito’s status as the political capital of Ecuador has given voters a reputation of voting strategically and unforgivingly; this year’s elections proved to be no different.

It was reported that certain voters were going to cast “anti-Barrera” (referring to the incumbent mayor of Quito Augosto Barrera) votes which would lend support to the opposition candidate, Mauricio Rodas, not because they approve of Mauricio Rodas but because they are unhappy with Augosto Barrera. Augosto Barrera has received mixed reviews during his tenure as mayor of Quito. In fact, prediction polls conducted by Gallup International indicated Mauricio Rodas as a slight favorite. Prior to the elections, Correa made several public appearances in which he encouraged voters to vote for Augusto Barrera.

How will the results from the local elections impact the overall goals of the Citizens Revolution[iv]?

As mentioned earlier, the AP made a slight improvement in the prefecture elections but experienced setbacks in the mayoral contests, most notably in Quito and Cuenca. Nevertheless, this is not likely to have negative overall impact on the goals of the AP political project. While mayors play an important role Ecuadoran politics, by no means do they have total authority over local political policies. Rather it is a collective process made up of the members of the municipal council who also play a very large role in the political decision-making process. Early election polls indicate that that in both Cuenca and Quito, cities where opposition candidates won the mayoral election race, it is unlikely that the new mayors will be able to diverge from the AP political agenda due to the fact that the majority of the elected municipal council members are members of Alianza PAIS.

Conclusion:

Some government supporters are concerned that Alianza PAIS’ mayoral election loss in Quito is indicative of growing discontent with the Correa administration. In recent months, President Correa has approved of many controversial decisions including:

Beginning oil extraction in the Yasuni national park.

Law 1938 that imposes harsher punishments on medical malpractice. This law provoked considerable anger among members of the Ecuadorian medical community. Many members of Ecuador’s Federación Médica threatened a mass resignation if their demands were not met.

-Lastly, President Correa’s threat that he would resign if legislators from the National Assembly passed a proposal to ease abortion restrictions. Correa’s unwillingness to ratify the strict laws on abortion was particularly upsetting to the three legislators that authored the proposal.

These issues have led to many protests and criticisms of Rafael Correa. However, while the local elections in Quito and in Ecuador reveal many things they do not necessarily translated into a growing dissatisfaction with Rafael Correa’s presidency. In a poll conducted by Gallup last January, Correa received a 63 percent approval rating in his job as president. Despite setbacks in the local political arena the most recent popular opinion polls indicate that President Correa continues to be seen favorably by a majority of Ecuadorians.

 


[i] All electoral victories include Alianza PAIS coalition parties

[ii] Election results reflect figures from Consejo Nacional Electoral, as of Wednesday, March 5 2014.

[iii] The winning party was an AP/ MED coalition party.

[iv] The Citizens Revolution is a broad political project launched by Rafael Correa that aims at eliminating corruption, strengthening the constitution, creating healthy and sustainable forms of economic growth and finally, expanding the health and education services within the country.   

*Asterisks indicate Alianza PAIS coalition parties.

 

Ecuadorians went to the voting polls last Sunday to participate in municipal and provincial elections for the second time since Rafael Correa was elected president. Early results indicate that 11,682,314 Ecuadorians voted which is equal to a 16.9 percent voter abstention rate; this is nearly 8 percentage points lower than in the previous municipal and provincial elections. Following the elections, UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a statement congratulating the Ecuadorian people for what they called “transparent and normal” elections.

The preliminary election results reveal that governing AP (Alianza PAIS) party candidates won a larger share of mayoral (30 percent) and prefecture (43 percent) elections than any other party.[i] In addition, AP achieved a 4 percent gain in prefecture electoral victories compared to the previous election. Table 1a shows the prefectures where Alianza PAIS won the highest percentage of voter shares.


[i] All electoral victories include Alianza PAIS coalition parties

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí